International Women’s Day: Gabriela and progressive groups join global strike, call on Duterte to fulfil his promises

Gabriela and the progressive social movement led rallies during the International Women's Day to call for land, jobs, justice and peace.

Women- organization Gabriela led the progressive social movement in the Philippines in the commemoration of the International Women’s Day as it joined millions of women around the world in the Global Solidarity Strike for their rights.

Thousands of women took part in the rallies held across the country as they were joined by members of different progressive groups and women’s rights advocates in calling for land, jobs, justice and peace.  TWHA partners, Council for Health and Development, Ibon Foundation, Climate Change Network for Community-based Initiatives and human rights group Karapatan, participated in the activities.

"On this day, Filipino women will rise and strike against imperialism, fascism, and patriarchy. We will strike to demand land, work, decent and living wage, safe working conditions, social justice and the emancipation of women from oppression and exploitation," said Gabriela in its statement.

“We will rise, along with our sisters from the US and other countries, in a historic global women's strike against the repression of migrant rights, racism, interventionist wars, for women’s health, for our right to food security, against trafficking in women and children, against the rising tide of police abuse and state repression and fascism,”

The progressive groups set about the day with two separate protests – one at the House of Representatives to denounce the approval on that day of the bill reinstating the death penalty in the country after it was abolished in 2006; the other in front of the US Embassy to denounce  US intervention and demand the abrogation of lopsided military agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and The Enhanced Defense and Cooperation Agreement and all the unfair economic treaties and neoliberal policies.

The Makabayan bloc, representing the progressive social movement in the House of Representatives, voted No against the reinstatement of death penalty asserting that it is “anti-poor; a historic tool for suppressing political dissent; prone to abuse by corrupt police, military and other state agents, and ultimately, an ineffective deterrent against criminality, rooted in mass poverty and an unjust social system”.

In the afternoon, the protesters met with other groups at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila and listened to the solidarity messages delivered by the leaders of the participating organizations.

Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador deplored President Duterte’s unfulfilled campaign promises to the people such as ending the contractualization of workers, land distribution to the farmers and other socio-economic reforms.

“The International Working Women’s Day is a day of reckoning between President Duterte and the poor, deprived and oppressed women and children who pinned their hopes on his promises for land, jobs, justice and peace. The women workers, peasants, students, migrants, and poor settlers remain in crisis after the president has broken many pledges for the poor and instead has grown to favor the destructive neoliberal policies of the past regimes,” said Salvador.

The protesters decried the worsening human rights violations of the Duterte administration as extrajudicial killings not only against drug runners and offenders, who are mostly poor, but also against political activists and indigenous peoples continue to rise.

Human rights group Karapatan has already documented a total of 19 EJKs against activists and IPs under the Duterte administration. This is on top of the more than 6,000 killed under Duterte’s war on drugs.

"The system that breeds the proliferation of drugs is the same one that causes unrest among the Filipinos. Thus it is important that the root causes of poverty and others that give rise to the armed conflict be addressed thoroughly," said Karapatan in its 2016 year-end report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Indigenous people’s group Sandugo lambasted the Duterte administration and the military for the continuing militarization of their communities that resulted in a number of killings and mass evacuations due to bombings and relentless military operations against the rebels.

Meanwhile, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns called on the public to prevent the impending passage of a law that lowers the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 16 years to nine (9). “Jailing children is equal to state abandonment and neglect,” said a placard carried by a Salinlahi member.

The Council for Health and Development and other health groups exhorted women to hold the government accountable for the continued diminishing of its responsibility to people’s health to facilitate the corporate takeover of public hospitals and health facilities. They are also seeking justice for the recent killing of a volunteer doctor in the remote areas of Lanao del Norte in Mindanao.

After the program, the protesters marched to the historic Mendiola to call upon President Duterte to fulfill his promises and to resume the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front to address the fundamental social and economic problems in the country.

Last February 14, Gabriela had successfully held the  One Billion Rising with the theme, Rise for Jobs, Land, Justice, and Peace. OBR is an annual global event aimed at ending violence against women in human history. Tens of thousands of women from different communities, schools, organizations, and workplaces joined the said event.

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